[sixties-l] After Jackie Goldberg, Whither the Left in Los Angeles?

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 12/17/00

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    After Jackie Goldberg, Whither the Left in Los Angeles?
    For the past seven years, Jackie Goldberg was the Los Angeles City 
    Council's major pain in the behind. Now the question is, how will the city 
    get along without her truculent energy? It looks like the city will have 
    to, however. Because no one on or running for the council has what it takes 
    to fill her place.
    Just weeks after Goldberg left to take her new Assembly seat in Sacramento, 
    City Hall already seems quieter. Her abrasive contralto is no longer there 
    to nail the issues beneath the surface: "If you put an army into a city, 
    nothing bad will happen," she said on her last council day, questioning the 
    city's sky-high spending on the hyperactive policing of the generally 
    peaceful 2000 Democratic National Convention. "But did you really need an 
    army? The desired effect was to intimidate people, and I think we'll be 
    living with [the consequences] of this policy for a long time to come."
    Goldberg is what the English press would call a politician of the left. But 
    not the left one associates with state Sen. Tom Hayden, former eminence of 
    the Students for a Democratic Society and 18-year veteran of the California 
    Legislature. Hayden's out to replace Goldberg's colleague Mike Feuer on the 
    City Council next year. So a comparison between Hayden and his departed 
    fellow leftist is inevitable.
    But Hayden, in his words, writings and deeds, is a theoretician whose 
    legislation often fails to make it into law. Goldberg, possibly the most 
    left-leaning councilmember since World War II, compiled a list of 
    accomplishments that peaked but did not stop with the 1997 living-wage 
    ordinance. Her success, however, stemmed as much from her years of teaching 
    high school in Compton as from her student-organizing days at UC Berkeley. 
    However she managed it, she arrived on the council with the abilities to 
    gather widespread support and to compromise, while reaching toward those 
    whom she feels are left out of the process. This is not a common skill set 
    today, even among political liberals.  At Goldberg's last Personnel 
    Committee session, she was still trying to apply some living-wage benefits 
    to part-time city workers while juggling several other labor issues on her 
    agenda. No other councilmember had ever shown concern for part-timers, who 
    now constitute a huge proportion of those employed by the Department of 
    Recreation and Parks.
    You wonder who's going to pick up those fallen balls now. The only current 
    councilman who shows similar concern for the downtrodden is Mike Hernandez, 
    and he's out next year. Of those who remain another two years, it's hard to 
    think of even liberals Mark Ridley-Thomas or Ruth Galanter, let alone 
    conservatives like Nate Holden or Hal Bernson, as making improved working 
    conditions a key priority. Young freshmen Alex Padilla and Nick Pacheco are 
    still positioning themselves and haven't delved deeply into such issues.
    So who will replace Goldberg's confrontational manner, concern for social 
    justice and ability to bargain? The list of potential newcomers isn't 
    auspicious. In her district, the contenders include Goldberg's brother 
    Arthur, a fellow Berkeley activist who has, however, long stood in his 
    sister's shadow. It also includes former council incumbent, and failed 
    mayoral candidate, Mike Woo, who as a councilmember never gained the trust 
    of his colleagues. It includes Goldberg's former staffer, Conrado Terrazas; 
    Bennett Kayser, a respected neighborhood activist and former charter 
    commissioner; former Assemblyman Scott Wildman, whose reputation veers 
    between loose cannon and charismatic; and Eric Garcetti, son of the former 
    district attorney. You can't rule every one of them out as potential 
    activist councilmembers, but that certainly isn't suggested by their 
    records to date.  Among next year's council candidates, there's no shortage 
    of outspoken individuals: Hayden, of course, and LAPD Sgt. and Police 
    Protective League honcho Dennis Zine, who wants to succeed Laura Chick in 
    her 3rd District. As an undeclared but widely presumed front-running 1st 
    District candidate, there's termed-out state Sen. Richard Polanco (one 
    wonders just how long it'll take for the term-limit laws to make the City 
    Council into a rest home for retired state legislators).
    But another Jackie? Not likely next year. Beyond that, however, the 
    possibility exists; there's a new generation of younger, progressive 
    people, active in local left causes, who might yet move on to electoral 
    politics. Some have found a career in community-based organizations. Others 
    found their cause in the organizing movement known as Justice for Janitors, 
    which probably brought more young Angelenos into political activism over 
    the past four years than any cause since the Central American civil wars of 
    the early 1980s. These young activists worked incredibly hard and learned 
    fast. The janitor movement and related low-income-worker activism grew 
    under the aegis of various locals of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant 
    Employees Union and the Service Employees International Union; already, 
    some of the younger organizers have moved up in these unions' ranks. As 
    SEIU Local 660's leader Gil Cedillo's election to the Assembly shows, union 
    leadership can indeed translate into elected office.
    Emergent left leaders in their political prime who might consider a council 
    bid include Maria Elena Durazo, head of the Hotel Workers Union Local 11, 
    and Madeline Janis-Aparicio of the labor-supported think tank known as Los 
    Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, or LAANE.
    Otherwise, expect a wait. The transition from '60s activism to L.A. City 
    Council candidacy took Councilwoman Galanter more than 15 years. It took 
    Goldberg even longer. But Goldberg's departure leaves a void in areas that 
    have now become matters of general public concern. The ever-increasing 
    political power of unions in Los Angeles, and support from the area's 
    wealthy liberal community, could urge some smart, as-yet-unknown 
    labor-backed activist into an inner-city district's council race in less 
    time than that.
    Marc B. Haefele Is a Columnist and Staff Writer at the L.a.

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